Meditation, exercise, long luxurious baths. It’s likely one (or all) of these things is on your personal self-care checklist at the moment. But what about the simple practice of self-love and showing yourself compassion? As basic (or complex) as that may sound, it’s a true game-changer, which is why musician, poet, and author Morgan Harper Nichols wrote an entire book celebrating it.
Nichols’ third and latest book, How Far You Have Come: Musings: Musings on Beauty and Courage, is a collection of beautifully illustrated poems and essays that serve as reflections of her personal journey and “reclaim moments of brokenness, division, and pain and re-envision them as experiences of reconciliation, unity, and hope,” according to the book’s official website. “I find that so many of the things that I experienced, other people connect with as well,” says the author to TZR.
Now, to be fair, prior to releasing this book, Nichols was already pretty open and honest with her 1.7 million Instagram followers. In fact, in February of this year, the poet revealed she had been diagnosed with autism at the age of 31. After years of pursuing a diagnosis for sensory and communication issues, the poet says it was actually TikTok that finally pointed her in the right direction. “There’s not a lot of information out there, particularly for autistic women getting diagnosed as adults,” says the artist. “So, for whatever reason, the TikTok algorithm was showing me videos, and one of them was of a woman talking about her experience in getting diagnosed as an adult, and I was like, They’re describing my whole life.” This served as the catalyst that led Nichols to find a specialist who indeed confirmed what she already knew to be true.
In sharing her story, Nichols explains that this led to followers sharing their own similar diagnosis experiences. “Unfortunately, this happens to so many people, and it happens to a lot of Black women,” she says. “Doctors not listening to you and not believing your story. So, that to me was heartbreaking but also cool in that it made me think, Yeah, we’ve got to talk about this in a larger sense.”
And while the stories within How Far You Have Come may not all be as life-changing as a major diagnosis, they still could serve as the perfect vehicle to open up important discussions in that they encourage individuals to honor every part of their life journey, including the smaller internal struggles, trials, and frustrations. “These stories aren’t the most important things that have ever happened, so [I used to think] Who am I to have strong feelings about college failures or awkward friendship dynamics and things like that? ”explains Nichols. “But those are real feelings and they deserve to be looked at, especially over this past year. There have been capital ‘L’ losses and lowercase ‘L’ losses, and this book was an opportunity for me to really recognize the importance of holding space for all of those emotions.”
In addition to her poignant words, Nichols is also throwing in some stunning and whimsical artwork to further breathe life into these moments, perhaps in an effort to show the beauty in letting them out into the world. “I really learned that I have to, even in the present moment and in the future, become more mindful of honoring my own story and not discrediting my progress. For instance, there are a few stories in there that are set when I was in college and there was a lot of shame associated with them. I felt like I had failed and I let people down and I never liked talking about those things.”
The book itself is broken up into eight sections, based on the various states Nichols has lived in and her memories from these states. One of the experiences she reflects on is within the “Alabama” section, an aforementioned college story that she hadn’t previously shared with anyone. “I failed a class that made me lose my scholarship at a university, and I had to completely let it all go and start over at a community college,” says Nichols. “My sister, who is my best friend, didn’t find out about it until a month ago! She heard me casually mentioning the story and was like ‘So that’s what happened when you went to that school?’ I just had so much shame and was so embarrassed by this big failure.”
Through this compilation, Nichols says she wants to give other people permission to own those parts of their story that maybe they don’t feel like are worthy of talking about. “I think that there is so much beauty and unique richness to each of our stories,” she says. “And I just hope with the colors and the poems and the things that I share that it helps you to ignite or reignite some of your own.”
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