A Talk with Ajolique Jude and How She "Became Enough" Through Writing
A Talk with Ajolique Jude and How She "Became Enough" Through Writing
By: Derika Crowley
“Allow your voice to occupy the room. Lend it in confidence and trust in your wisdom.”
That is a quote from Ajolique Jude, poetess, and writer from Washington, DC. Joined by the company of many other quotes and poems from Ajolique, this quote represents one of the many elements of inspiration painting the theme of her Instagram page. In a fitting fashion, in between her creative words, you can find insightful images of the soulful creator and get a little peek into her life (mostly consisting of her many appearances at events, speaking on the “Hey Girl” podcast, freeing vacations and beautiful self-portraits).
Twenty Somethin’ & Black first met the poetess when she hosted one of our Meet & Greet events in DC. She spoke on self-care and how to do a “spring cleaning” with yourself, in terms of leaving behind old habits and toxic people. As she spoke, you could tell the ladies present were in awe of her words. For some, she was providing a validation to what they already knew, but didn’t know how to execute; and for others, it was as if a light bulb was finally going off. It was this moment when we knew Twenty Somethin’ & Black had to interview Ajolique for the website.
Ajolique represents one of those girls who many of us aspire to grow into. Totally aware of self, surrounded by an amazing tribe of girlfriends, grounded and elegant in thought and speech. In her new book, Becoming Enough*, she references her journey to get to her current state of self-realization.
DC: Can you give some background on the new book? What inspired it?
AJ: The forthcoming collection of poetry and personal essay, Becoming Enough, explores the duality of becoming and unbecoming, touching on topics of loss, womanhood, and healing. The book came to be from a desire to express the complexity of the grief I felt after the loss of my mother and to confront the childhood trauma that impaired my self-esteem. It’s really an exploration of that pain, its manifestations, and the journey to heal and realize my worth.
What made you start writing, and at what point did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I started writing when I was about eight years old because I was in search of an escape in the aftermath of my mother’s passing. I found so much comfort in writing short stories, creating characters who were wildly different from me, and giving them experiences I wished I had. Creating stories allowed me to see and hope for more than what was in front of me. Writing has continued to be the easiest and most eloquent way for me to express myself. I was a very shy and quiet child, seldom using my voice, and writing became my safe space to speak and say what my mouth could not.
I decided that I wanted to be a writer in high school when several of my poems were praised and published in my high school’s literary magazine. It was empowering to see my words in print and shared and discussed. Prior to that, I had dreams of being a pediatrician until I realized I cannot handle seeing other people’s bodily fluids (lol).
I am still in the process of owning the title of ‘Writer.’ For much of my life, writing has been a very personal undertaking. I have been awfully protective of my words in the past so I definitely have some adjusting to do once the book is out in the world and exposed to the commentary. Though, I am very excited to share it.
How have you learned to balance between writing for leisure and writing for a consumer (or have the two blurred together)?
This is something I am still finding my footing on and part of why it has taken me so long to complete the book. The question I have asked myself continually as I worked on the book is whether what I am writing is rooted in my truth. That is what I am most concerned about the process. There have been times that my writing has been compromised by outside influences and their version of the truth. So, I am learning to balance the obligation to express authentically while carefully considering anyone who may be implicated as well as the audience.
Any tips to manage stress or stay motivated to finish a project?
Take breaks and give yourself grace. That has been my theme this year as deadlines have shifted and life has happened. My commitment to completing the project did not waiver, but I had to be flexible and gentle with the expectations I placed on myself. Some days what I wrote just wasn’t working and I had to be okay with that. The next day, or even the next week at times, I would show up to the page again and do the work. I think if you truly believe in the work you’re doing, you will find the motivation to complete it. On the hard days, I would repeat a line from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, “The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”
What are some mental hurdles you’ve encountered during the process of writing your book and how have you overcome them?
Oh, doubt for sure! Negative thoughts would enter my mind and try to trick me into believing that what I was creating held no value. Why should my voice matter? Who would even want to read the book? Are my dreams valid? That sort of thing, which I think is fairly normal for all creatives. But self-awareness is so central to silencing negative narratives and maintaining your focus on the work. I’ve gotten better at catching myself when I’m allowing negative thoughts to disrupt my creativity. I acknowledge what I’m feeling, whether it be fear or doubt, and then I let it go by reaffirming the truth. My voice does matter, and my responsibility is to focus on the writing and detach from the outcome.
And then there’s often the fear of impostor syndrome whenever we’re in the process of becoming something. There’s this peculiar questioning, am I really what I say I am and will others receive me as such? And the answers to those questions are, YES and who cares?! Validate yourself and give yourself permission to be in those spaces. It takes years and years to master a craft or skill, and you only arrive at that level by doing.
Transitioning this to the conversation of “self-care” what has the process of taking an idea and turning it into a tangible project taught you about yourself and mentally taking care of yourself?
Writing is such an introverted and intimate process that it’s nearly impossible not to discover new things about yourself and your beliefs even when you’re not necessarily writing about yourself. When working on Becoming Enough, a book that required a remarkable amount of vulnerability and self-reflection, it was very painful revisiting memories I had buried deep in my psyche. There were many emotionally exhausting days and tearful nights as I uncovered multiple layers of hurt. I had to offer myself kindness and compassion as I wrote about the experiences I associated with shame. In that way, it created an opportunity for me to further heal the wounds of abuse, shame, and loss.
At our event in May, you spoke on “mental spring cleaning” and removing ourselves from toxic people and environments. From that conversation, what are some of the takeaways every “20 something” needs to hear?
You are the sole proprietor of your wellbeing, and as so, you have the right and responsibility to create healthy boundaries that reinforce your mental, spiritual, and emotional health. As you grow in your awareness of self, you will notice harmful patterns of thought, belief, and behavior. So, when you dig a little deeper and investigate the source of toxic cycles, it is often reflected in the company you keep. That company may be your parents, siblings, friends, partners or even the spaces you choose to occupy. You know when someone in your life does not have your best interest at heart. It’s indicative of how they treat you, whether they manipulate you, verbally abuse you, etc. What is often harder for most people is severing ties and creating distance from people who are detrimental to our esteem and evolution. I want all 20-something women to pause more often and intentionally examine the patterns present in their lives, identify the root cause, and dig that root up if it’s killing your spirit. Your best self-requires suitable soil, sun, and water to grow. Curate your space and company, accordingly.
For someone who is unaware of their “triggers” or knows something is off, but not sure what, how would you recommend they work to overcome?
First, be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you work through your triggers. They’re called triggers because they pull you back to a moment of trauma, pain, stress, etc. As you experience the trigger, often times, you feel the raw emotion you felt during the experience and understandably it can be overwhelming. A trigger I have had to navigate in romantic relationships is when my significant other verbally attack me in an aggressive manner or they express themselves in an angry rage. That’s a huge trigger because I was verbally abused as a child and having a partner communicate in that way makes me feel unsafe and threatened. I know it is a trigger for me so I am mindful to share that with my partner early into the relationship so they can bear it in mind and create safe spaces for communication. When you feel triggered, especially if you have previously communicated a boundary and it has not been respected, remove yourself from the situation or limit your proximity.
A lot of people are unaware they have an issue altogether, what would you say to them in terms of checking in with themselves?
When we don’t slow down and check-in with ourselves, cultivating our self-awareness, we are far more susceptible to falling into situations and patterns that are not aligned with our best interest. I habitually emphasize self-awareness because so many of us are on auto-pilot and subconsciously allowing all sorts of outside influences to dictate our lives and how we view ourselves. We are surrounded by technology and social media that fills up crucial stretches of our time that could be spent assessing how we feel and examining how our lives are unfolding. Are you on the path you desire to be? If not, it may be that what is happening in your life reflects how you have been treating and seeing yourself. Self-awareness is the first step in changing your reality and aligning with what you want for yourself, whether that is more peace, joy, love, and ease. Developing self-awareness takes time and effort, and a good place to start is forming a practice of journaling. Make that your scheduled check-in time. How are you feeling? What are you noticing about your life? Are certain lessons reoccurring, and where did that pattern start? That is where you begin the work of unpacking your issues and changing the narrative going forward.
Anything else you think is important for Twenty Somethin’ women to know?
Our stories are most powerful when noted and shared. Write to them. Speak to them. Paint them. Film them. Whatever is your medium of choice. Because they do matter.
Ajolique's book Becoming Enough will be available for purchase September 2018 on Amazon and Ajolique's official website.*