Coming Back Better

Rebuilding from the breakdown.

               Three years. That’s how long I’ve been at this thing. Choosing daily to hone my craft in ways that I had never imagined. All while putting my hometown’s artistic talents and creatives at the forefront of my intentions. The growth was tedious and methodical, yet wild in my own personal understandings of what would become of it. It has shaped me, transformed me into a multi-dimensional woman. And admittedly, it broke me. More than once.

               Days of wailing my frustration, with trying to comprehend my path and the task lain before me. Although time of rest and reassurance came, they mingled between the over-exertion of my skills and those moments of self-doubt with imposter syndrome. There were rocks being thrown in my way, from those attempting to trip me up. Bruising my ego and stifling my creativity for way longer than my normal confident self should have allowed. But it isn’t clear how to balance yourself when your integrity is called into question. Holding my time and charisma above me within reach, yet I held a broken key. Or so I thought.

Michelle L. Hill

               Slowly my gratefulness for my life continuing grew, for the days steady moving me forward, whether I felt like it or not. Mornings spent crying to my mother about my fading motivation to complete my book, at some point turned into late nights of pounding my heart out on the keyboard. There were times you couldn’t convince me that there hadn’t been bloodshed. My words on those pages had fought for me, when I was too weak to do it for myself. My curated consciousness was being resurrected-replenished even. So much, that I had no choice but to welcome the inevitable overflow. The completion of what had taken me two and half years to write, was now being brought to fruition.

               My family, friends and even brief acquaintances offered words of hope and perseverance. Each conversation serving as a reminder of why I started in the first place. I wanted to inspire, I wanted to give of myself, I wanted to give to myself. All the things that I sought after in others, I needed to be reminded that those things were always inside me, just waiting for their rightful acceptance. My joy could never fully cease if breath still filled my body. Those are the thoughts I took with me as I entered the venue for the long-awaited launch of Avalokita . It was the day that I couldn’t quite fully see until it finally realized in front of me. The overstimulation was insane, seeing so many loving faces who supported this project. Although the day presented it’s challenges, as does every evolutionary act, I swelled with pride as I shared this intimate piece of myself.

Michelle L. Hill

In those moments staring off into the crowd of faces, leaning into the discussion of my book, many feelings flooded me. I could feel a quiet stir of anxiousness creeping but I quickly became grateful as I was honored to share this moment with visual artist and curator, Cicely Jones. The artist was featured last year along with two other UMKC graduates. It was with great pleasure to see her shine once again as she demonstrated the beauty in her color depth and range of emotions throughout her work. Her work perfectly suited against the solid black venue wall as it beckoned conversation and consideration. Each piece emoting a unique sense of being. But there was a single piece that further expressed the significance of reaching this milestone. It stood out, the only round canvas, with a woman sitting from a profile angle. The soft jam color and texture of her headwrap held as tight as her eye on you.

               The painted woman’s jawline gave intense sternness as if biting her tongue for better judgement. Her sitting presence mirrored my own in that moment. The title of this reflection given by Jones is, “Black Girls Don’t Bruise”. Immediately evoking what one would go to for strength and pride, but it was the subtitled phrase draped above her head in a crescent shape sitting atop the headwrap that stung me—hard.

Black Girls Don’t Bruise” Cicely Jones ’22


My eyes widened, reading the direct contradiction in the layers of the piece. I was surprised initially but then I thought to myself, “was she wrong, though?”


The phrase wasn’t to argue or prove anything to anyone. These were just the facts. Our strength might be unparalleled amongst others and our melanin might be ever radiating but our skin is not impenetrable. We aren’t the immortal “superheroes” that we or the world expects of us. Pain-emotional, mental and physical-is not lost on us. I can attest from my own personal experiences. Yes, I am amazing, I am beautiful, I am talented, I am courageous. But I am also human, and Jones’ piece was a critical reminder that I need to extend the same grace that I do for others for myself and to continue to see myself in the light of forgiveness. These bruises are proof that I am still living, that I am capable of recovery and healing, that time is and always will be, on my side.

Black Girls Don’t Bruise” Cicely Jones ’22

While I am here and my eyes are wide open with discernment, I press on. I accept the personal challenges that I have set forth for myself. Preparation have been made and voice has risen once again. I am coming back with even more than before. I am coming back better.

Michelle L. Hill
Michelle L. Hill

Embodies the peace adventure yields, is home in the beyond, and establishes foundations needed for others to experience true wonder for themselves. Creator of The Black Sunflower.

2 responses to “Coming Back Better”

  1. I am so very proud of your accomplishments. I am grateful that you are embracing your creative spirit and allowing your light to illuminate those who have the pleasure of experiencing the gifts of your art. It is very easy to become distracted, discouraged and thwarted from your path. I speak from heartbreaking experience. The important thing is your response to the challenges and naysayers. Your response is strength, resolve, perseverance and rising to heights higher than you ever dreamed. Continue to rise and inspire, you never know who is looking up, whose life may be forever changed by witnessing your glorious ascent.

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