Before moving to Cleveland I was afraid to come back. I was afraid I would return and it would be like it was before. I was afraid that I would feel judged. That I would feel like I was “sticking out” (brown girl in the Midwest probs). That I would feel like a kid again, relying on my parents for help. But I found that exact opposite . . . I found that I am forever changed. I found my voice. When different people call me “Mrs. Daniel Hessler” two times in one day I correct them saying “My name is Olivia Castro.” What someone asks me why I have my septum pierced I tell them because it like it and it looks beautiful on me. What someone comments that my hair is a mess I continue to wear it in a messy bun for two more days without washing it. When someone bombards me with question after question about my business to belittle me I laugh in their face and ask them if this is an interview. Before I left to California these would not have been my responses. I would have ignored someone calling me by the wrong name. I would have taken out my nose ring and done my hair. I would have downplayed my business and not even mentioned the coffee shop we’re opening. Instead, I answered everything like me. Like the woman I always wanted to be would. I respond with strength. I respond with confidence. I can do this because I put in the work. The world will tear you down. It will tell you that you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not skinny or curvy enough. It will rub all your failures in your face. It will judge you. It will give better opportunities to others even if they don’t deserve it and just be unfair. Anything that makes you different or unique, the world will pick on you for. The only way to keep moving forward is by putting in the work and saying no more. No more will I be timid. No more will I be afraid. No more will I hide my truth from others. No more will I let the world push me down. This is not to say it is easy to do because it is fucking hard. Hundreds of thousands of years of misogyny and socialization has told us that as a woman and a person of color this is the way it should be. We should be silent. We should hide our truths. Every day I am given two options. I can either live the way the world tells me I should or I can live the way that I tell me I should. I finally learned how to choose myself.
Photography: Analeah Williams @dawntoduskphoto