"Shine Bright Like A Red, Ripe Apple At The Tip Of The Topmost Branch"
"Twap... Twap... Twap," went my pen as I meticulously tapped it across my notebook.
It was some time in the afternoon my sophomore year of college while I was in my history of sexuality class. I know what you're thinking, ya nasties (as Curly would say). But this class was actually all about the history of sexuality from an ancient Greek and Roman perspective (I was a huge Latin/classics nerd in high school).
The teacher was saying something; nothing that I could really remember. All I could focus on was the "Twap...Twap... Twap," of my pen as I meticulously tapped it across my notebook. Cuz let me tell y'all, if there was one thing I learned for sure that semester, it was that classes after lunch were a deadly sin, and that my immediate choices were either this pen or my face hitting this notebook.
"Twap... Twap... Twap..."
Most days in that class, I was hella annoyed that my professor wouldn't let us use a computer to type our notes (like I got that it was a classics class, but he definitely took it a lil' too serious). But on this day in particular, all I could do was count my blessings, as tapping my pen across my notebook was the only thing keeping me from looking like this kid here...
And then I remember him saying that we were going to be studying Sappho today. For those of you who don't know who that is, she is the only female poet (that we know of) whose work has survived from that era. Most people think she was a lesbian because she wrote a lot about women. I'm not 100% under that impression, especially since we don't have the full texts. But based on what I did read, I feel like she had an honest appreciation of women — like she knew their worth better than they did, and used her art to show them. Anyway, we happened to flip open the book to this fragment...
I've never really believed in love at first sight, and for real for real... I still don't. But I guess you could say that the feelings I had towards this fragment when I saw it for the first time are probably the closest I'll ever come. It's like I had this intrinsic, soul-binding connection to it-- like what you'd imagine feeling towards a long-lost family member you saw in a crowd. For some reason, reading it in a book wasn't enough for me. It had to be a part of me.
I got this tattoo about a week before my 20th birthday. I think it took around 3 or 4 hours; no breaks, and it was what I thought was going to be my most painful tattoo ever until I got an ankle tattoo a few years later (LAWD now that pain... that was some next level, intergalactic pain, and it was only for like 10 min, lol).
So if anyone loves doing puzzles as much as I do, then you're familiar with that rushing sensation you get when you just clicked in the 3rd to last piece, and then there's two more pieces, and you can so boldly see where they both belong. You hold the piece over the hole to measure it up, and when everything aligns just right with your eye, you click it into place, and feel the flood of accomplishment come over you because your vision has finally come together.
In a lot of ways, finding this fragment, and getting this tattoo felt like clicking in to place the missing piece that would put me one more step towards becoming the person that I always wanted to be. I look at old pictures of my hormone-raging, boy-crazy, empty back side, and I just can't believe that was ever me.
There are a few different ways you can interpret this fragment.
An apple is really high up on a tree. Some apple pickers want it, but are too lazy to go after it, and decide to move on.
Or maybe you see it like this; the apple pickers aren’t lazy, but they just didn’t see it. It probably wasn’t as sweet or as delicious as Sappho made it out to be, because how could you miss something like that.
Or lastly, maybe you see it like this; the apple pickers aren’t lazy, and they didn’t miss it, but they recognize that this is a good apple-- no, an amazing apple, and that they are in a place in their lives where they don’t have the time, energy, or resources to devote to getting such a beautiful apple. Just because they can’t get this one, doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to eat, and so they move on. But they always hold in their memory what a pleasure it was to be in the presence of such a sweet and red apple. Maybe this apple even helps them develop a standard for the types of apples they will pursue in the future.
But regardless of their reasoning, just because they couldn’t go after that ripe, red apple at that point in time doesn't mean that this should devalue the worth or the sweetness of it.
Prior to getting my tattoo, I used to believe that I was the apple on that top most branch (ok maybe I thought I was more around the middle), and that I was never good enough to be plucked. Even though people close to me like my friends or my mom would want to remind me of how red and sweet I was, I just couldn't believe them. Because if that were the case, why hadn't it motivated any apple picker to pluck me up?
I would see apple pickers come and go, and they would love to either pull low-hanging fruit (which I say with no tea or shade because, honestly, I wanted to be them), or they would sometimes even go so far as shaking apples down to their level. The worst ones would shake these beautifully ripe, red apples down from their branch, only to leave them to rot.
But for some reason, I could never unhook myself from this tree. I would pray for many nights into the universe for any apple picker to see me; to validate my worth and my juiciness, even if it meant that I had to lower myself to get to them. I finally got my chance to be shaken free in college, and y'all... it was nothing but three years of ghosting, crappy hook ups, and awful communication. By the time I got to my senior year, I slowly came to realize how much I loved my place back up on the topmost branch.
When I saw this tattoo in my history class, I think what I felt was my second chance. This fragment and my tattoo were the beginning of me realizing my worth. Sure it was lonely to be at the topmost branch at times, but at least it gave me the time to bloom, uninterrupted, into the person I wanted to be; a boss queen running her own hustle. By the time I got to senior year, I made a choice to myself to actively stop thinking about dating, and to throw myself unapologetically into my senior thesis, which won me the media studies department award, and entrance into a few student festivals. And when I graduated, I continued to stop thinking about dating so that I could focus on being hired full time at BuzzFeed, at which I went on to create half a billion views worth of content.
This all isn't to say that love and relationships aren't important. But rather that the time that I took to re-establish my place at the topmost branch during those two years made me realize how much I didn't just want any ol' apple picker grabbing up at me. I wanted someone who could see how amazing, and ripe, and juicy I was; I wanted someone who wouldn't be intimidated at the thought of coming to get me at my level.
So if you're anywhere near where I used to feel about myself, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve been hanging on this tree for a couple of years now, and your goodies only have so much time before they start to "go bad" (which is a whole other mindset we'll have tear you out of later). So you really want, and in some cases, feel like you need an apple picker to see your worth ASAP, and pluck you off this branch.
But if there is anything that this fragment has made so clear to me, it is that life is nothing but a game of perspective. You can either choose the narratives that give you strength, or choose the narratives that make you feel less than. For so much of my life, I chose to see myself as less than, when in reality (or at least in my reality), I feel like the universe was trying to show me how I deserved so much more. Remember that you can interpret the fragment in a variety of ways. So why not choose the interpretation that gives you a sense of value? Why not choose the path that gives you strength?
When I think about what I hold so near and dear to my heart about this fragment, it is the realization that my apple is worth hanging on that topmost branch until the end of time; it is fully being able to stand behind and say that I will never let myself drop to be found. So I hope if you've been struggling with finding your sense of worth when it comes to love, you remember that your only job is to shine brightly on the top of that branch, and force someone who is worthy of your sweetness to rise up to what you are worth.
And if you ever need a reminder, just throw on some some sistah, auntie, queen Rihanna. She'll let you know about the value of your worth real quick, lol.